As a boy, Taylor Wiegele could often be found in the kitchen "making mixtures of random ingredients." Fortunately, for him and for his family, his enthusiasm for "potions" evolved into a real chemistry expertise. After studying chemical engineering at Berkeley, he worked at Clorox where he collaborated with designers on packaging development and retail displays.
"I really loved how you could manipulate materials and turn them into beautiful things you would want to buy," Taylor says. "I had to save money for the business, but also make the products aesthetically pleasing for customers."
After stints with Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing ("It's actually made of nothing that would torment the Berkeley hippie in me") and Brita water filters, Taylor got the call engineers dream of: Elon Musk's SpaceX team had found him through LinkedIn, and wondered if he would be interested in designing air filters for commercial space craft. "They look for people with passion over deep industry experience," says Taylor, "precisely because they want to suspend recognized norms."
Although Taylor "loved the fast-paced SpaceX culture," he missed the consumer connection. After eight months, as his designs were becoming clear, he began looking toward the MBA. "I wanted to enable new technologies, to give them legs," he says. "How can you position technology to solve the problems people didn't know they had?"
Learning from peers
HBS attracted Taylor as way to go beyond his "narrow California experience," to work through a rigorous general management curriculum, and to learn from his "peers about VC, PE, investing, budgeting—everything, not just technology."
"After talking to people in different industries, I see opportunities I wouldn't have considered before," Taylor says. "It puts my career in much crisper perspective. Wherever I end up, I'll know it's exactly what I want; it'll be informed by other things out there."
Culture, too, is a "big deal" for Taylor. At HBS, Taylor is more than welcomed, he is embraced. "I'm gay and it's a defining part of who I am," he says. "I want unbridled acceptance, not mere tolerance as an 'other,' a checkmark in the diversity box."
In the summer, Taylor will go to Target's Minneapolis headquarters where he'll work as a buyer, "a merchandising position at the opposite side of the table" from his previous work on products. Throughout his career, he hopes to "add value to people's lives through new technologies and new products. I love the idea of crafting a whole shelf, a set of products. If that works, that could be my career path."